Right now it’s hard to imagine that the super-saturated ground in the Seattle area will ever dry out. But it will, and quickly — remember last summer? It doesn’t take long once the dry season comes. And the last few years, we have even been surprised by some hot days early in the season.
If you are not into watering by hand and have ruled out automated watering — or if you simply want to conserve natural resources — you’ll need to:
- Start with the right plants
- Use water efficiently
At the peak of summer, few gardens can get by without some supplemental watering (the exceptions being certain types of plants and trees that are very well established, or a rock garden).
Look at the lawn
Let’s start by drought-proofing your lawn. Grass is an expensive ground cover, and if it’s not watered and maintained, it’s a brown eyesore for months. Think about replacing that lawn with a stepable ground cover or drought-tolerant succulents. Most are very easy to grow and many can also handle soggy Northwest winters.
Drought-tolerant plants, native and non-native
When looking at drought-tolerant plants for the garden, it’s easy to get bogged down in plant selection. Northwest native plants might sound like a good choice. They are already adapted to this climate and can survive a short dry spell. However, our yards aren’t much like the environments where these plants naturally occur, so there is no guarantee of success. And, sad to say, most native plants don’t offer much in the way of “eye candy” in the summer garden. If you are a purist and want a native plant garden, you will find a long list of easy-to-grow plants — just don’t demand too much of them in the way of appearance.
If you add drought-tolerant plants that are non-natives into the mix, you’ll find there are a lot more possibilities. Colorful perennials, plants with interesting leaves, bark, and fall color are readily available. You can see examples of this type of garden, mixing native and non-native plants, in my online Portfolio.
Previous Design Tips blog posts talk about my top picks for plants, shrubs, and trees that do well in the Pacific Northwest.
Designing the water-wise garden
Working with plants on a regular basis for years, I’ve learned what conditions they need to thrive in our region. This helps me decide what plants to use for any application — and, just as importantly, what plants not to use.
Once the framework for a garden design starts to take shape, then plant selection is an important part of making the landscape work. That’s when considerations like ease of maintenance and drought tolerance come into play. But keep in mind that there are many other criteria that influence what type of plants will thrive in your garden, especially in a sunny Northwest summer.
Call us for a consultation to discuss garden enhancements, landscape renovations and sustainable gardens.